‘Glee’ Recap: Special Education

S2:E9 I like to think of this week’s episode of Glee as a big metaphor for this second season, and perhaps the writers do too. While it’s had its moments this season, it’s yet to touch the fervor and spark of its inaugural year. They’ve gotten too bogged down with an overdose of angst and turned previously complex characters into caricatures of their former selves. They’ve assumed the fact that the cast can sing and dance and give a good performance, but in season one, everything was on the line both fictionally and in the reality of trying to make it on network television. Now, they’re firmly secured as top show just as the New Directions have secured a spot as a top choir, but the success won’t continue if they don’t keep giving it their all.

The episode begins with Schue handing Emma one of his tickets to sectionals, and she accepts even though she’s got a toothy, handsome Carl at home. She’s happy to support glee, but she knows exactly what Schue’s stale plan is for sectionals: a ballad with Finn and Rachel, followed by a rock number, with a finale by Mercedes. Schue is completely shocked – is he really that dumb? Emma points out that they aren’t the underdogs this year and it might be time to shake it up, take a chance and let the other kids in the glee club get some of the spotlight, too.

Schue marches right into the choir room, shuts down Rachel’s idea about a duet for her and Finn, and says that the sectionals performance will feature Brittany and Mike’s killer dance moves and Quinn and Sam as the duetting couple. Okay, that’s kind of different. Of course Rachel is furious, but even good boy Finn can’t stand it, complaining that they can’t take out their star players for sectionals. This of course sets off the rest of the team, especially Santana who finally reveals her tryst with Finn’s tryst in a motel room last year. Whoops, he’s never going to hear the end of this.

While the drama bubbles over at William McKinley High, Kurt starts his first day at Dalton, beginning with his introduction into the Dalton Warblers. They give him a canary that’s been in a long line of Dalton canaries, but they don’t really catch on to his coal mining jokes. Tough crowd, huh? Kurt shares his ideas for sectionals the way he would at his old school, but because the choir is run by a council of three upper classmen, they take care of song selection and Kurt’s idea is dismissed. It seems like he didn’t account for the culture shock that comes with changing schools.

Rachel sets up a couples counseling session with Emma (I guess they are kind of married in high school terms), and asks Finn if Santana was lying. Finn admits it’s true and it brings up a bout of insecurity in Rachel. She thinks Santana is “hotter” than she is and Finn makes the mistake of agreeing that Santana is “super hot.” Big mistake buddy. Rachel asks Emma if she can slap Finn, but she suggests that Rachel storm out instead. Well this confirms it; I don’t dislike Emma, but I always thought she had a few deficiencies in the counseling department.

Artie catches Brittany in an empty classroom, she’s got her nose in a corner because she’s “paralyzed with fear.” She’s worried about being featured at sectionals and having their fate on her shoulders. She knows she’s not able to handle the pressure, just like she knows the cricket who reads to her at night is stealing her jewelry. Is she secretly a Disney princess? Artie thinks quickly on his feet, using an age-old kid ploy, telling Brittany he’s got a magic comb that makes sure you win. She’s dumb enough to believe it, especially when Artie pulls the whole “you mean you’ve never heard of a magic comb?” bit. She says he’s the best boyfriend ever, but maybe he’s more like best babysitter ever. (It’s okay Brittany, you still rock.)

Schue looks to Puck to recruit a new member to replace Kurt, and Puck (who consistently has some of the cheesiest lines on this show) accepts the challenge when Schue says he can’t depend on Finn and Rachel for these sorts of things. There’s nothing like pitting your students against each other, Schue. Puck delivers the tale of Bruce Springsteen and how he got his start in the locker room and tries to connect glee club to the Boss, but the jocks aren’t having it. One guy even compares joining glee to joining the KKK – okay, what? I know it’s only a single line, but I have to call it out because I can’t believe that made it in to the finished script. It goes too far, and for no real point. What are you thinking, writers? As a form of punishment for even asking them to consider joining glee, they decide to reinstate the 10 am slushie and they’re going to start with Puck.

He’s missing from the next glee club meeting and Santana’s only worried because he needs to get her a churro. (Heartless, much?) Mercedes is still complaining that she doesn’t get a solo and everyone’s worried they’ll lose to the Warblers because they have Kurt. Don’t worry, Brittany got a possum-throwing plan in case that happens. Rachel comes in with duct tape strapped across her mouth in protest of her “wasted talents” (Quinn was right, someone needs to punch her). Schue loses his cool and tells her to knock it off, and tells them to get back to their old ways of acceptance and sportsmanlike behavior. Just then, Puck is brought back to the choir room. He’s just lived a nightmare that he used to inflict on lowly nerds – being trapped in a tipped over port-a-potty. The nerd girl/wrestler, Lauren, saved him and is recruited to Glee club – but she had some conditions, including 7 minutes in heaven with Puck. Nice negotiation tactic, Lauren.

Meanwhile, Puck’s “sacrifice” ramps up Santana’s torturing of Rachel, she goes down the hall spilling more information about the sordid affair with Finn. Puck offers comfort to Rachel, saying that when he prayed to get out of the port-a-potty he promised to be nicer but when he realized he couldn’t do that he decided to just be nicer to Jews. Ha. So he and Rachel walk arm in arm down the hall to talk about her problems, but Rachel’s already feeling his arms in wonder. Uh-oh, not good. She’s definitely going to try to make Santana jealous.

In an attempt to make himself heard at Dalton, Kurt comes to Rachel for advice on auditioning for a solo for The Warblers. Kurt wants to sing “My Heart Will Go On,” but she kills that idea – thank God. She asks Kurt to think about what his own funeral would be like – her overinflated ego tells her Finn would throw himself on her grave at hers – and to sing a song that’s a little more personal. Of course, she’s prepared to share her song for that occasion: “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” She starts the tune, and Kurt finishes it up for the Warblers as Blaine looks on proudly. Even though Kurt’s song choice wasn’t that personal, because it’s actually Rachel’s, he rocked it. Unfortunately, his old glee tricks aren’t exactly right for The Warblers. They’re all about working as a team instead of being about standing out. Ooh, see? The Warblers are the antithesis of New Directions. Did you catch that glaring comparison?

Already it’s time for the kids to get on the bus for sectionals, and Emma tells Schue she can’t go because it upset Carl and she loves him. Wisely, Carl’s not really keen on Emma buddying up to Schue. Come on, was this whole come-to-sectionals-like-last-year ploy really innocent, Schue? I think not.

When they reach the (way too fancy for public school) auditorium, Rachel and Kurt bond over losing solos and Kurt says that he’s upset they don’t appreciate individuality at Dalton. Wait, now she and Kurt are besties all the sudden? I guess it’s one last plea to make Rachel not completely deplorable. She tries to confide in Kurt about her problems with Finn, but he’s whisked away by Blaine as the Hipsters (a group of singing elderly people, no joke) start their performance. I still can’t believe they actually followed through with the joke that a group of old people are competing against high school kids. It seems a little out of place, but luckily it’s a short number that leads right into the Warblers’ rendition of “Hey Soul Sister.” Despite the Lawrence Welk style swaying and stepping and the fact that the entire Glee club serves as a glorified back up group for Blaine, New Directions gives them a standing ovation in support of Kurt’s new home.

Once they get backstage, however, New Directions is busting apart at the seams. Artie calls out Brittany for adultery and she doesn’t deny it (Tina put a little bug in his ear about Mike and Brittany hooking up). Then Rachel finds out that everyone but her knew about Finn’s hookup with Santana. This erupts in full on rage and everyone threatens to quit the competition. Schue comes back and tries to inspire them to work together like they did last year, saying they didn’t know how or if they could win but they gave it everything and pulled through – see what I mean about comparing last season to this season?

Behind the curtain, as the performance is about to start, Artie is still asking Brittany about her “adultery” but it turns out she though the word meant being stupid, you know “like a dolt.” Oh boy. She says she did something worse; she lost the magic comb at motocross practice (why is she the coolest girl ever?) and that’s why she’s been avoiding him. He admits that it was an ordinary comb (off the floor, gross) and says that she doesn’t need it because she’s the one who’s magic. Aww. The rampant coupling on this show has become obnoxious, but this one’s adorable.

Lauren ditches the stage just as the performance is starting because she thinks glee is stupid – good riddance. Her performance would just have been jokey anyway. To start them off, Sam and Quinn recreate Finn and Rachel’s sweet backstage moment from Regionals with “Time of My Life” (sans nostalgic Dirty Dancing moves) as they work their way to the stage to perform with the rest of the team. But then it’s time for Brittany and Mike’s moves, Santana solos “Valerie.” Brittany and Mike kill it in spite of Santana’s annoying voice, but it was still a bit anticlimactic without an epic note buster to cap off the ending.

When it comes time to announce the winners, of course the Hipsters are out, but it turns out that the Warblers and New Directions tie for first place…well that was convenient. Now they’ll both be at Regionals. Schue goes to tell Emma about the victory and she delivers the shocker – she and Carl got married in Vegas. Schue storms out like a teenage girl, not that I expected better behavior.

Finn and Rachel finally make up and promise that they never lie to each other again which means it’s time for Rachel to come clean about her big secret. She did in fact use Puck to stir up some jealousy. He couldn’t follow through though because he had guilt from doing it to Finn when he was dating Quinn. So now Rachel’s gone an opened up that would; something tells me Finn’s not going to get over this. He breaks up with her and leaves her devastated in the hall.

Back at Dalton, Kurt is afraid that his canary is dying because he’s not singing, but Blaine eases his fears. The bird is molting, going through a transformation. He’ll need to lay low for a while until he gets his bearings and is done shedding his old coat. Oh wait, just like Kurt! Subtle, guys.

In the last scene, Schue asks Rachel to solo in celebration of their win, but she can’t find her voice now that she and Finn are over so she gives the song to Mercedes and Tina. They sing “Dog Days Are Over” as Rachel de-Finns her locker and Emma and Carl make out in her office. It’s the best performance of the episode – they probably should have performed that one at sectionals. But then again, they wouldn’t have tied with the Warblers and the storyline would be all screwed up, so I guess I’ll let it go.